Manni N枚ssing

Italy, Alto Adige

As Ian d'Agata writes: 'Manni N枚ssing is one of Italy鈥檚 most talented winemakers. In fact, all his wines are so good that it鈥檚 virtually impossible to pick the best of the lot, or even a favourite.'

We could not agree more. Manni is a charming, unassuming man crafting simply outstanding wines in this beautiful corner of north eastern Italy. The Eisackthal Valley (German Name) or Valle Isarcois (as its known in Italian) is a small tract of the Alto Adige that feels deeply Alpine, Germanic even - it is a mesmorising scenery, completely breathtaking to be in. Beautifully mountainous with green high-pastures, craggy clifftops adorned with isolated monasteries and small patches of vines, neatly ordered and hugging the slopes in small patches, dotted throughout the valley. There is a coming together of cultures here - in the school in Bressanone the first language is German and all the signs are written in both languages. Yet the wines here have a lovely, northern Italian purity. A limpid, crystalline quality. Bright, pure and yet with sensational texture and depth.

The DOC is small - running the length of the valley, just 40 km and made up of nearly 400 hectares under vine. Only white varieties are currently permitted, with Sylvaner, Kerner and Riesling featuring widely. Manni Nossing is farming just 6 hectares and is at the forefront of a new generation of winemakers - who's families historically sold their fruit to the big producers like Abbazia di Novacella, but now make their own wines. Since 2000 Manni has bottled his own wines and is fanatical about expressing the freshness of the terroir and is determined to make wines with huge drinkability - he finds it sad that some people are still trying to make fuller, more 'silicon coated' wines here - 'non per me grazie!'

These are fascinating, powerfully driven wines chiselled and focused - simply so moreish. Hand-crafted artisan winemaking with huge appeal we cannot recommend these wines highly enough.

Manni N枚ssing is one of Italy鈥檚 most talented winemakers. In fact, all his wines are so good that it鈥檚 virtually impossible to pick the best of the lot, or even a favorite (although individual taste preferences will undoubtedly help guide that decision). N枚ssing鈥檚 most famous wine is his Kerner. In my view, the M眉ller-Thurgau Sass Rigais is just as good, while the Sylvaner his most underrated wine (sometimes I think by N枚ssing too). N枚ssing is the acting president of Eisackthal (Valle Isarco in German) Wein association which aims to spread the wine and food culture of the Valle Isarco. There are forty to fifty members including producers, restaurateurs, and the local tourism office, all working together to promote this beautiful part of Italy. And promote it they should, since the area and its wines are nothing short of breathtaking. The full name of the winery is Hoandlhof-Manni N枚ssing, but as that is fairly unpronounceable for anyone but native or enthusiastic German speakers, most people refer to the estate simply by N枚ssing鈥檚 name. The winery is perched (literally) atop a steep hill in the pretty town of Bressanone (or Brixen, in this rather Germanic neck of the Italian woods) and doubles as the N枚ssing family home. Getting there is best attempted with a smallish car, as you鈥檒l find yourself driving through very tight, steep, hairpin curve-infested pretty little streets (over the years, I have always wondered about what sort of automotive gymnastics might be required if a bus or large truck ever happened to come down the hill while I was driving in the other direction; rather thankfully, I haven鈥檛 had to find out yet). However, the drive is worth it, for once you reach the journey鈥檚 final destination you are met not just by Pablo (N枚ssing鈥檚 very likable, friendly dog, a Labrador now getting long in the tooth but that has been a cute fixture of the estate ever since I can remember) but also with a beautiful view of the Valle Isarco, which sprawls out below. Surrounded by the steep and absolutely beautiful slopes of the Dolomites, a cool breeze always present especially when evening comes, you realize right away why making fresh aromatic whites should be de rigeur here. Although N枚ssing鈥檚 estate is Brobdingnagian in terms of wine quality, it鈥檚 pure Lilliput size-wise. N枚ssing owns only 5.5 hectares (13.6 acres) and rents two more, a situation common to the majority of Alto Adige wine estates, a region where individual vineyard holdings are on average so small that cooperatives rule. N枚ssing has been estate-bottling only since 2000, when he made the decision to do things his way, prior to which his the family sold grapes to the nearby Abbazia di Novacella. You might say N枚ssing has never had to look back. Over the years his outstanding wines have reaped, quite rightly, countless awards and high scores everywhere. Ian d'Agata,  (Feb 2017)

In fact he first bottled his own wines in 2000. Before that he sold his grapes to the Abbazia di Novacella co-op. In less than a decade, his wines, particularly the Kerner, have many times received the Gambero Rosso tre bicchiere award and found their way into top restaurants in London and New York. Well, I'd much rather he was looking after his vines than answering emails if this wine is the result. He has just 5 ha (12 acres) of vines around Brixen/Bressanone in the Eisacktal/Valle Isarco in the S眉dtirol/Alto Adige in the far north of Italy (every place name in this largely German-speaking region has both a German and an Italian version). He grows mainly aromatic whites (Kerner, Gew眉rztraminer, Sylvaner, Veltliner, M眉ller Thurgau) but apparently also produces a red blend called Espan (Blauer Zweigelt, St Laurent), which I haven't tasted. Kerner's parentage is unexpected: it is a cross between Trollinger, a generally rather lacklustre black-skinned variety known as Schiava Grossa in Italy, and Riesling. It was bred by August Herold in southern Germany in 1929 and apparently named after Justinius Kerner, a 19th-century writer of drinking songs! Although it doesn't really taste like Riesling, Manni N枚ssing's version shows some of the finest qualities of that particular parent, notably purity, intensity and finesse, though the acidity is a little less piercing. Julia Harding MW,  (Oct 2009)